Last Updated July 24th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 3: Starting A WordPress Blog

How To Start A Blog, Part 3: Starting A WordPress Blog

Starting your WordPress blog is very easy. WordPress is the most popular blogging platform because it’s easy to use and there are a ton of plugins and themes to make your blog look and work the way you want it to.

You can go to wordpress.com if you want to go free, but I don’t recommend it. There are limitations on how you can earn money there. Pay for your own domain name, pay for hosting elsewhere, and you can install WordPress and earn money more easily. You will also look more professional than if you go with any of the free sites.

I like Hostgator for my websites. I’ve used them for years now. There’s occasional frustration with them, but that’s true everywhere. If not Hostgator, many people like Bluehost. They’re owned by the same parent companies, but there are differences. Take a look and decide which you prefer. My examples will use Hostgator because that’s where I’m at right now.

hostgator screenshot

You’ll land on a page something like this when you go to Hostgator. It will change over time, so don’t assume it will be exactly like this. When you’re just getting started, that smallest plan is enough, just be aware that it only supports one domain name, as of this writing. The next plan up allows unlimited domain names, so if you’re planning multiple blogs, you will at some point want to move up. Plans and pricing can change, so I won’t share a lot of details.

Don’t start out with multiple blogs. You’re learning how to run things right now. Don’t complicate matters just now. Get a feel for what you’re doing before you even consider expanding. Hostgator or any other host will gladly let you upgrade later.

Hostgator will allow you to register your domain as you sign up for your plan. You will also pick how many months of plan you want to pay for at this time. You currently get the best price if you sign up for a three year contract, but if you can’t afford that, pick one of the other contracts. Contracts renew automatically at the end of their term unless you cancel.

You do not need to sign up for the extras they’re offering. You can, but they aren’t necessary. There are WordPress plugins that also help with security, and that’s what I use.

After going through the registration process and payment, you can log into your cPanel. It will look something like this:

cPanel hostgator

You may see a 1-Click WordPress installation link, and that is one possible way to go. It will give you a bunch of options to have a pro install it for you for a cost. Once again, not necessary. Ignore those – the installer will take mere minutes. Don’t start paying for things that are easy to do yourself. Pay for the things that are difficult or take more time than you can spare.

If you want to learn to install WordPress on your own (it’s not hard!), skip this section. I’ll show you how I handle things below.

1-Click Installer Instructions

If you’re going the 1-Click installer route, just follow the instructions. Choose your domain on the first screen, fill out the required information on the second, and hit Install. It’s that simple to install WordPress using this method. Just don’t use “admin” as your username. It used to be the default, and hackers still try it first.

one click installer wordpress

At this point, your installation is complete. Make sure to take note of your username and password. Hostgator will offer to sell you a WordPress theme. You can buy one if you want, but WordPress comes with a basic theme that is free, which is enough to get started. There are tons of themes out there for you to consider when the time is right, both free and paid.

What I don’t like about this method is that the 1-Click installer puts in ads for things to buy for your new installation. I don’t need junk clogging up my blog admin panel. When I want to buy something to make my blog better, I can find it and install it myself. That said, they’re plugins and you can go to the plugin page and delete them.

Manual WordPress Installation

WordPress installation is fairly simple. Unfamiliar, but simple once you know what to do. You can use the instructions available on wordpress.org or follow my instructions.

The first thing you need to do is install the MySQL database. You’ll see a link in your cPanel. Click it. This will take you to a place to create a new database. You will need to create a database and a user, then add the user to the database. These are separate steps, but they all take place on the same page. Make sure you note the password you create for the user. You’ll need that along with the database name and username for your WordPress installation.

mysql example

You will also need an FTP program. I use Filezilla. You can download and install it onto your computer. Refuse any extras with the install – sometimes they offer some extras you don’t need. Your cPanel login information should let you sign into your website using the site manager.

Go to wordpress.org and download WordPress. Save the zip file, and unzip it to a location on your computer. Find wp-config-sample.php and rename it to wp-config.php. Open it in a text editor such as Notepad. Put in your database information.

There are security keys you can edit as well. You don’t need to remember these, so they can be complicated. WordPress offers a generator to create random keys for these, and that’s plenty good enough.

Save your file as “All types” and not .txt. It must end in .php and not .txt to work.

Connect to your hosting using Filezilla. In most cases, you want to install WordPress to the root of domain, which is in the public_html file. If you have multiple domains, you may need to locate the right domain first. Upload the unzipped files for WordPress.

Once the files are uploaded, visit your website. You should see the installation page. Follow the instructions to create your account. Don’t use “admin” as your username, as it used to be the default, and is still very popular with hackers. Once you’re done and you have logged in, it will tell you which files to delete using your FTP program.

Choosing A Theme

You may find it simplest to use one of the themes included in your installation to start. There are other themes all over the place, but these will get you started. You want a theme that is responsive, so that your site will show well on smartphones as well as tablets and computers. A lot of people visit websites through their phones, and you should be ready for that.

Most themes are easy to customize with your own choice of colors, header images and so forth. The Customize link in the Themes menu will give you the available options. It will give you the recommended sizes for images.

Don’t overdo the time you spend choosing and setting up your theme right now. Change it enough to look how you want it to for the start.

Adding Plugins

Plugins can add a lot to your blog. They can make it easier to promote your blog on social media, improve security, and much more. Here are a few that I like:

Bulletproof Security
Yoast SEO
Shareaholic
Sucuri Security

You can find these by clicking Add New in the Plugins section of your blog. Just do a search. They will take a little configuration. Links for each should appear on the left menu of your administration area.

Make Your First Post

Once you have your blog set up satisfactorily, it’s time to make your first post. There’s a “New” link at the top you can click, or click on “Posts” over to the left, and then click to make a new post. You can copy and paste it from your word processor if you have one written already, or type directly in the post box. Come up with a good title, and include photos if possible. WordPress makes it easy to add images with the “Add Media” button.

You can of course delete the “Hello” post WordPress includes automatically. Alternatively, edit it to create your own hello.

Include An About Page

People like to know who you are. Make an About page to let people know who you are and what your blog is about. Some themes will show your About information on the sidebar.

Pages are different from posts. You will find the link to make a page just below the Media section on the left.

Include A Privacy Policy, Terms Of Service, etc.

You should include a privacy policy and other legal pages on your site, especially if you want to use Adsense, recommend affiliate products or otherwise make money off your blog. Adsense and many affiliate programs have specific requirements you must follow in terms of your privacy policy and disclosing that you are an affiliate.

You can set these up even if you aren’t using these programs yet. It won’t hurt you to be prepared. Check with each program as you join to ensure you’re meeting their specific requirements.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 20th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 2: Brainstorming

How To Start A Blog, Part 2: Brainstorming

If you don’t already know what you want to blog about, figuring it out can seem a little bit challenging. There are so many possibilities, and they can be hard to narrow down.

Start the process by considering the topics you might enjoy blogging about. You can blog about pretty much anything. Here are some popular subjects:

  • A business you’re already running
  • A hobby
  • Family life
  • Career
  • Cooking
  • Pets
  • Gardening
  • Personal finance
  • Fitness
  • Education (very popular for homeschoolers)
  • Faith
  • Advice
  • Just about any other subject you enjoy

You don’t need any special qualifications to blog, although you should know enough about your subject to gain people’s trust. Blogs about “watch me learn to do this thing” rarely stay interesting for long. It’s better to go for a subject you know well. That goes double, or even triple if you’re giving advice.

Once you know what you want to blog about, it’s time to do some initial brainstorming. You need to figure out categories for your posts and get several post ideas to start off with. A mind mapping app can be very helpful for this, and there are several free or paid versions available. SimpleMind is a popular choice. The basic version is free, and the paid version is quite reasonable.

You may want to compose a couple blog posts even before you have your blog set up. Just use your favorite word processor. You can copy and paste them into your blog when you’re ready to go. This will give you some practice writing before  you’re paying for hosting.

Don’t stress too much about length. There are many opinions on how long a blog post should be. My opinion is that a blog post should be long enough to give the information you intend to share, but not so long that it bores people. How long that is depends on what you need to say. There are some statistics that say search engines like longer content, but if your readers hate it, there’s no point.

Always be ready to take notes on blog post ideas. Back when I started, I kept a notebook in my purse so I could write down ideas any time. These days I use my iPhone if I’m out and about, or my laptop if I’m home and it’s more convenient. You can keep using your brainstorming app or switch over to the notes function on your phone or use another program. I like using Google Drive, so that my ideas are accessible wherever.

This is also a good point to start brainstorming domain names. Don’t be surprised if your first choice is taken – that happens to a lot of people. I’ll include how to get your domain name in the next post. You usually get it from your hosting. If you want to get that right now, you can sign up with HostGator.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 17th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 1: Why Blog?

How To Start A Blog, Part 1: Why Blog?

Today is the start to my series on how to start a blog. I’ll post every few days – many steps will take more than a day, and time to think is always a good thing when starting a new venture.

Blogging is fairly easy to start – the hard part is earning a living at it. You have to work at it and give it time. But as home businesses go, I think it’s a pretty good model to try. There are many good reasons to blog.

Low Cost Of Entry

One of the simplest reasons I recommend blogging is the low cost of entry. You can do it for free, although I don’t recommend going that way. You’re better off paying for hosting through a company such as HostGator. I’ll get into the reasons for that in another post. Still, blog hosting doesn’t have to cost a lot per month. It’s very budget friendly.

Flexibility

Blogging is an extremely flexible home business. You don’t have to tell your boss when you need time off. You don’t have to keep to a schedule. You don’t even have to keep the kids quiet most of the time.

The one thing you have to do is find time to work at it. Blogging won’t work for you if you don’t. Depending on your family’s needs, you may need to get up early or stay up late. You may have to ask the kids to give you some quiet time so you can work, or have your spouse keep them busy.

That said, setting a schedule for yourself is a huge help. It’s too easy to slack off if you don’t give yourself some sort of a schedule.

To Build Your Business

If you have a home business, blogging can be a good addition to it. It’s not the end all, be all solution to your marketing problems, but it can benefit your business. A blog can be a place to show off how you use your products, share things your company has done for your community, and give customers a way to interact with you. It can also be a more personal presentation of your business, if you like.

Blogging also builds your authority as a business. Your blog content can help potential and current customers with problems that relate to what your business offers. If they trust what you say on your blog, they’re more likely to trust your business.

To Show Off Skills To Potential Employers

Blogging can help you demonstrate your skills to potential employers. Writers can build a portfolio of articles on their blog. Photographers can show off their work. Anyone can use blogging to demonstrate their knowledge in their career field. A high quality blog makes a great resume.

To Find Others Who Share Your Interests

Blogging is a great way to share your interests, and that means you’ll find people who are interested in the same things. That’s a part of what makes it fun. Blogging can be a great networking tool, both for hobbies and your career.

To Help Others

Back when I started Home With The Kids, I was a medical transcriptionist. I was always being asked how to get into that, because so many people want to work at home, especially moms. I got to a point where it made sense to me to start a website on the subject of working at home, so I could simply direct people to my answer there, as there are so many more ways to work at home than just being a medical transcriptionist, and so many hazards to watch out for.

Things rather took off from there, and I’ve had a lot of people be grateful for the help I’ve been able to give them. Start your own blog, and you might help others in ways you aren’t expecting.

To Learn

Blogging is a great excuse to learn new things. You need to keep learning just to keep up with your blog. There’s always something new to learn about whatever you’re blogging about, so you can share it with your readers.

You’ll also learn about how to run a blog. The basics are pretty simple. I’ll walk you through how to install WordPress in a later post. Even doing it the hard way is pretty easy once you know what you’re doing. There’s a lot more to running a blog than just installing WordPress, of course.

The next step is to figure out what you’re blogging about. This may give you even more reasons to blog.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated May 10th, 2017

How To Find Free Images To Use On Your Website

Quality images are important to the success of your website. While they don’t replace high quality content, they help keep people interested in your content. The challenge is in finding free images to use.

Safest, of course, is to use images you have created yourself. Photographs you’ve taken and graphics you’ve created completely on your own free you from worries about copyright issues on the images. You may still need to consider how you’re portraying products visible in your images.

It’s not always practical to create your own images, however. It’s extra work, and you won’t always have time to create the image you want. It is often easier to seek out images online. That makes it important to consider copyright.

What Should You Look For?

Knowing the copyright status of any image you use is vital. If you can’t figure out the copyright status of an image, assume it exists and that you cannot use the image. That’s safest.

Creative Commons

A very helpful form of copyright is called Creative Commons. This allows owners to declare what level of protection they want on their images. If you want to use an image on a website that you earn money from, you want images that allow commercial use. But there’s more to it than that.

You will also need to pay attention to whether or not use of the image requires attribution. You must give credit to the creator of the image if they require it.

You must also note whether you are allowed to change the image at all. Some want no changes at all to their images if you use them.

There’s also a Share Alike possibility, which means that anything you create from their image must have the same license.

Creative Commons 0 (CC0) may be the easiest license to deal with. That places the image effectively in the public domain. You can use it, change it, and you don’t have to give attribution.

Make sure you understand which Creative Commons license applies to any images you use that show it. If someone goes through the effort to put a Creative Commons license on something, it makes sense to follow those rules.

Public Domain

Images go into the public domain when they’re old enough. When that is can be complicated. You can read up on it here.

Once you’ve done that, I hope you’ll see why there isn’t any one answer I can give there. Many things published before 1923 are in the public domain, but that’s not a guarantee. Some older items will still not be public domain because they were never published, and so remain under copyright longer.

Where To Find Images

You can search sites such as Flickr for images with no known copyright restrictions. It’s one of the options you find when you do a search. If you don’t see it right away, do a search, and the results page should have the option to narrow it down by copyright.

flickr screenshot cats

Google Images allows you to search by usage. Do your search, then click on Tools. Click on Usage Rights, then select the appropriate level. It only goes to “Labeled for reuse with modification,” which will usually be enough. Google search can be easier than searching some of these sites, plus it’s searching all over the internet, rather than a site at a time.

Click on any image you’re considering, and go to the site it is on. Don’t download it straight from Google. Check the license as listed on that site so you know what you’re getting.

Google Images screenshot cats

No matter what site you find an image on, even if I’ve listed the site here as a safe one, check the terms of use on the image itself. Do not take my word for it on the safety of any images on these sites. I don’t control them, terms can change, and if someone uploads something copyrighted and claims there’s none, that has nothing to do with my advice. Some sites allow contributors to declare a particular license rather than default to CC0 or similar, and so may have a mix of licenses on the site.

Most image sites also have ads on them, and it may be difficult to tell whether an image is going to lead you to a paid site instead. Watch your sources!

Barn Images
BossFight
Fancy Crave
Foodies Feed
Gratisography
LibreShot
Life Of Pix
Negative Space
New Old Stock
Open ClipArt
Pexels
PicJumbo
Picography
Pixabay
Public Domain Archive
Public Domain Pictures
Skitterphoto
SplitShire
StockSnap.io
Stockvault
Unsplash

How to Research Images

If you want to know more about where an image comes from, you can do a reverse image search. TinEye is a good resource for this. You can also use Google Images to do a reverse image search. It’s not a bad idea to check on images you’ve downloaded, for your own safety. I can’t promise that you’ll always spot the copyright if there is one, but it may help.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 20th, 2015

How Well Does Your Website Cope With Mobile Devices?

How Well Does Your Website Cope With Mobile Devices?

If you pay much attention to your website stats at all these days, you know that mobile is huge. For this website, just under half my traffic comes from desktop computers – the rest is all tablets and cell phones. It’s not something you should ignore, especially with Google now penalizing websites on mobile search if they aren’t mobile friendly.

You can start checking this out with a simple tool from Google to see whether or not they consider your website mobile friendly.  This won’t show you how your website looks to visitors, but knowing whether or not Google considers your website to be mobile friendly is a good place to start.

But Don’t Most Smartphones Display Websites Just Fine Anyhow?

It’s true that most smartphones do a pretty good job of displaying websites. Screen sizes have increased through the years, and quality in general has gone up. But not everything works right on every mobile device if you haven’t planned for it.

Your font sizes may be too small, for example, for a smaller screen. You might have links set too close together to be easily used on a smaller screen. Your layout may come out really weird or just be too wide for the phone’s screen. When in doubt, it’s best to check things out so you know how your website works on different screens.

There are tools, such as Browserstack, Sauce Labs, and ScreenFly.  Some are free and others require you to pay. It’s absolutely worth it to know what your website looks like, and even how it works on a wide variety of browsers, devices and screen sizes, even beyond the simple question of “is my website mobile friendly?”

It may sound like a lot of work to get your website ready. Messing around with the way your website works can be time consuming or expensive, depending on whether you do it yourself or hire somebody. Fortunately, there are a variety of options.

WordPress Plugins

If you run your website using WordPress, getting mobile ready may be as simple as using a plugin. The plugin detects whether a visitor is on a mobile device or a computer, and shows the correct version of the site. Here are a few options:

WPtouch

This is what I used first when going for a more mobile friendly website. It’s very easy to use. The options are pretty basic – you can customize colors and other aspects of your website’s mobile appearance. There’s also an option for visitors to switch over to the regular version of your website, which can be useful. You can get more features if you buy the pro version.

WordPress Jetpack

Jetpack is a plugin that comes from the developers of WordPress, and it does a lot more than offer a mobile theme. It also gives you access on your self hosted WordPress blog to features offered on WordPress.com, such as stats, site management, subscriptions, comment forms, image carousels and more.

WordPress Mobile App

WordPress Mobile App makes your website look and feel more like an app when someone views it on a mobile device. You can customize the appearance, and all content is synced to your blog. There is also a premium version with more features.

WP Mobile Edition

Yet another plugin to quickly make your WordPress site mobile. Visitors can choose the mobile or regular version of your site and the theme is designed to be lightweight and fast.

Go Responsive

A plugin isn’t your only option for managing your content for mobile users. You can make your website responsive; that is, it can change based on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. This is the solution I chose, as not all of this website is based on WordPress, and I wanted a consistent look and feel across the entire site, no matter the device.

Some people really don’t like responsive websites. I like them, especially for a site like this one, where the focus is on information rather than interactivity. If you need more interactivity on your website, it’s entirely possible that a specialized mobile version of your site, beyond what even the above mentioned WordPress plugins can do, would be a good idea. If you’re more about information, perhaps not so much.

What I’ve done on this site isn’t as complex as some responsive sites have, and I’m not 100% satisfied with some of my results. I’m mostly pleased with it, however. I did a lot of research on how to make a responsive website, and how to manage all the likely screen resolutions. It’s the navigation menus that mostly give me fits – it’s really difficult to make that display nicely across screen sizes.

But I learned how to tell my pages what content to display and what to hide on different screen sizes, how to change the layout based on screen size, and so forth. It took a lot of time, but I enjoyed figuring it out for myself. If you aren’t inclined toward doing your own HTML and CSS, don’t try this on your own – have a professional help. If you’re already managing your own designs, you can probably do this.

If you use WordPress, there are also quite a few themes out there that are responsive right out of the box. I like this idea better than the plugins I mentioned at the start because, once again, I like having more consistency across devices.

There are a ton of free responsive WordPress themes out there. Check out the sites linked or just do a search for them – they’re out there. WordPress even comes with Twenty Fourteen and Twenty Fifteen, both responsive layouts for your blog.

Free may not be your best choice, however. Many free themes are very limited in how you can customize them and in their support. Companies such as Themeisle offer a range of very impressive responsive themes for reasonable prices.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.